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(LEAD) S. Korea stays alert over further virus spread after Itaewon cluster cases

All News 10:49 May 14, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS more info and photo)

SEOUL, May 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Thursday reported 29 more coronavirus cases following cluster infections linked to clubs and bars in Seoul, putting health authorities on edge amid growing concerns over further virus spread.

The new cases of COVID-19, with 26 of them being local infections, brought the nation's total number to 10,991, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The number of cases connected to bars and clubs in Seoul's popular nightlife district of Itaewon has reached 120, according to the KCDC and the city government.

South Korea had added fewer than 15 cases of COVID-19 since mid-April, with the number of domestic infections even falling to zero on some days.

But the number of daily new cases has hovered around 30 for the past three days after the country saw an unexpected spike in cases coming from entertainment facilities, with secondary and tertiary infections reported not only in Seoul but across the country.

A street in Hongdae, one of the busiest entertainment districts in western Seoul, is mostly empty on May 13, 2020, amid renewed concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. (Yonhap)

Of the total 29 cases, 12 came from Incheon, west of Seoul, six from Gyeonggi Province, surrounding the capital city, and three each from Seoul and North Chungcheong Province, the KCDC said.

Imported cases, previously the biggest threat for South Korea's quarantine operations, are now less of a concern, though the country reported three more such cases Thursday.

South Korea's virus death toll climbed to 260 after adding one more fatality, according to the KCDC, with the mortality rate reaching 2.37 percent.

The total number of people released from quarantine after full recoveries stood at 9,762, up 67 from a day earlier, the KCDC said.

The country has carried out COVID-19 tests on 711,484 people since Jan. 3, including 15,564 from a day earlier.

The number of people undergoing tests has spiked recently due to cases linked to nightspots in Itaewon. So far, some 20,000 people have been tested over the Itaewon infection cluster, according to the KCDC.

After flattening the curve of COVID-19, South Korea shifted last Wednesday to an "everyday life quarantine" scheme and the normalization of public facilities and other business establishments, under the condition they follow basic sanitation measures.

But due to the recent surge in virus cases traced to the Itaewon area, the country has decided to push back the reopening of schools by one week, allowing students to physically attend classes in phases starting next Wednesday.

Seoul and other municipal governments have issued an administrative order banning gatherings at entertainment establishments, which has de facto forced club and bar owners to suspend business.

Teachers set up dividers on tables in a cafeteria of Duksoo High School in Seoul on May 13, 2020, to prevent coronavirus infections, ahead of the school's reopening on May 20. (Yonhap)


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